Police utilize Segways for transport

Machines afford an "above the crowd" perspective, which is perfect for security

Police officers at the University of Maryland in College Park nowadays glide across the often-crowded campus, eight inches off the ground. Since April, police officers and student auxiliary members of the university's Department of Public Safety have used Segway Human Transporters to patrol the campus, which has 32,000 full-time students during the school year.

The Segway scooter, introduced in late 2001, has not taken off as some hypemasters suggested. But it has found a niche among campus and mall security departments. University of Maryland officers say the machines allow police to patrol in crowded pedestrian areas with an above-the-crowd view. The department operates six Segways, and will use the machines at many of the approximately 600 special events the university hosts each year.

The Segway's 12.5 mph top speed wouldn't catch a running criminal, but it can maneuver in crowded areas, unlike a bicycle, says Capt. John Brandt of the university police. Segways can operate inside the basketball arena without marking up floors. Students employed by public safety use Segways to pick up students calling for an escort. And an officer standing on a Segway is eight inches off the ground, good for scanning large, densely packed areas. "If you want to patrol a large parking lot, this is a tremendous benefit," Brandt says. And training takes about 30 minutes.

Privately held Segway doesn't release sales figures but says it's sold several thousand of the US$5,495 i180 Police units, with features such as side and front cargo bags and handlebars for mounting lights or sirens.

IPC International, which provides security to 400 U.S. properties such as malls, has about 90 Segways at more than 40 locations, says Jade Hirt, IPC's national manager of staff development.

Mall patrons notice security officers a lot more now, Hirt says, adding, "If you give me another eight inches in a crowded food court, I can see over anybody."